He is happy and he dances, says David’s mom, Donna. It’s hilarious. At Next Step Ministries (NSM) they call it doing the David!
David has cerebral palsy and autism. When you first meet 25-year-old David, he seems mild mannered. But when he is hanging out with his friends at NSM, he loves to have lots of fun.
The staff at NSM in Woodstock serves and celebrates David and many other special people with special needs. Executive Director Lori Baker discovered the challenges these families face while serving as a physical therapist in the Cherokee County school system. Baker knew services were needed to care for this population, but was surprised when she was strongly led during a mission trip to fill that gap and start the venture herself. By 2007, NSM became incorporated as a non-profit organization. By May 2009, staff was hired and clients started attending the programs. They purchased property and moved to their present location at 7709 Turner Road in Woodstock two years ago.
NSM is the practical solution to the challenges of care for the special needs community, helping caregivers who work or need free time. The therapeutic day program, done in a loving, Christian environment, offers skilled personnel for assisting with fine motor, gross motor and functional communication. They also participate in cognitive activities, community events and much more. The programs run Monday through Friday and are full or part time. NSM also has a job skills program, drop-in services, a Saturday respite program and camps during summer and school breaks (one of which will be Feb. 20-24). My favorite project in the job skills program is Hope Bones, in which clients make and distribute dog biscuits for sale to support the work at NSM (see list of retailers at www.nextstepministries.net).
There is always something exciting going on at NSM. During my visit, I got to see their landscaping project in the works: a beautiful butterfly garden, nature trail (with exercise stations) and prayer garden will be completed to enhance each client’s experience.
Bubba Cooper shared this about his daughter Tink: “The magic of NSM to my wife Angela and me is the patient, compassionate and loving environment Next Step offers Tink. It is such a relief to know that your special needs loved one is going to a place she not only enjoys, but where she can be herself and thrive. Angela and I call that truly living rather than merely existing. We can’t imagine Tink anywhere else.”
“God has created each person perfect for His will,” Baker said. NSM accepts from mildly to profoundly involved clients who have a wide range of issues. NSM’s professional staff members (supplemented by an extensive network of volunteers and consultants) serve 28-30 clients a day. Do you have time, talent or funds to donate? In addition to the “How to Help” tab on the website, NSM is also hoping for funding for a lead teacher and a community development grant for another bus. If you would like to help or know someone who could benefit from this program, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, call 770-592-1227 or visit Next Step Ministries.
By Susan Schulz, contributing writer